Advantages of Divorce Bifurcation in California

By Lisa Magloff

In most states, divorce can only be completed once agreement has been reached on all the associated issues, such as division of property and child custody arrangements. Divorce bifurcation allows a judge to grant a divorce before an agreement on all outstanding issues has been reached. Divorce bifurcation is allowed under California Family Code §2337 and has some advantages, as long as certain conditions are met.

Remarriage

Divorce bifurcation is most common when one or both parties wants to remarry. In California, there is a mandatory six-month "cooling off' period between filing for divorce and the time the divorce can proceed to court. If a divorce is contested and there are complex issues involved, such as a property dispute, it can take years to finalize a divorce under normal circumstances. However, couples can apply for bifurcation immediately after the end of the six-month period, and can be granted a bifurcation as early as three weeks later, allowing remarriage less than a year after filing for divorce.

Tax Advantages

Another common reason for bifurcation is to allow one party to file his federal tax return as a single person. According to IRS rules, you are allowed to file as a single person as long as your divorce was granted by the last day of the calendar year. For a spouse who is paying child or spousal support, there is a tax advantage to filing as a single person. Support payments are 100 percent tax deductible if you file as single person, although the recipient must pay taxes on any support he receives. Filing as a single person also avoids having to share tax deductions.

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Bargaining Advantages

California law favors bifurcation. A California judge is able to grant bifurcation for almost any reason, as long as there is no compelling and particular reason not to bifurcate. This allows couples to resolve their marital status before tackling contentious and expensive issues. This can prevent one party from holding the marriage hostage to effect a more favorable settlement. For example, if a man knows his wife wants to remarry, he may refuse to agree on property distribution or another issue, in order to prolong the negotiations and force his wife to give in. With bifurcation, the wife could get remarried before the property issue is resolved, removing the husband's leverage. This may speed up resolution of contentious issues in the long run.

Bifurcated Issues

In California, the court can also bifurcate certain issues in the divorce into two parts. Bifurcating particular issues in a divorce can end up saving both time and money, and the court may not need to go to the second part in some cases. For example, if spouses disagree on whether a family business is community property or separate property, the court can bifurcate the trial into two parts. In the first part, the court determines if the business is separate property or community property. If the business is found to be community property, then the court decides how to split the property in the second part. If the business were found to belong to only one spouse, there would be no need for a second part.

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Meaning of Bifurcation in Divorce

References

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How to Go Through a Divorce & Split a Federal Refund

When a couple divorces, the court must divide all the joint property and debts. Although the parties often agree how to divide their property, the court must accept that division. Courts commonly divide federal tax refunds between the parties. If the parties have not filed federal tax returns, the court will often order under what status they should file their returns, as well as how any refund will be divided.

Can My Ex Sue Me After a Bifurcation Divorce?

Divorce laws can vary from state to state, and this is particularly true with the issue of bifurcation. Bifurcating a divorce allows you and your spouse to part ways without first deciding issues, such as property division. However, not all states allow it. Alaska, California and Kansas include provisions for bifurcation in their legislative codes, but Michigan, Texas, Arizona and Nebraska don't permit it. In New Jersey, a court will only permit bifurcation under "extraordinary circumstances." If you're unsure about your own state, check with an attorney to find out if it's possible, because some jurisdictions don't have any hard-and-fast rules for bifurcation at all.

Uncontested Divorce in Illinois

While cooperating and communicating with your spouse during divorce proceedings may be challenging, it can allow you to negotiate a better divorce settlement and avoid the time and costs associated with going to court. Illinois provides for a simplified divorce procedure in certain situations. Contested cases can become uncontested if the couple reaches agreement on a divorce settlement. Alternative dispute resolution is available to help couples talk through their issues and reach an agreement.

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